On September, 2011 the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his United Nations General Assembly address backed Palestine by pushing for its ‘sovereign nation’ status, he also stressed on recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine besides welcoming the recognition of Palestine as the United Nations member state. And now in 2017 India again extended its support for Palestine by voting in favour of UNGA resolution that was aimed at rejecting the US decision on Jerusalem. The supportive stance of India for Palestine dates back to 1947 when India attained freedom from the British rule and since then India has never stood against Palestine in ‘Multilateral Diplomacy’, nevertheless India and Israel have forstered their bilateral ‘strategic relations’ from the time the two states got into diplomatic ties in the year 1992.
With India holding strategic ties with Israel and US being its strong ally, Indian pro-Palestine stand at UNGA came as a surprise for the Indian citizens and it also stirred debates at national and international level. By voting in the favour of Palestine, India continues to maintain what it calls as an independent stand over Palestine-Israel conflict. Although Indian support for Palestine continue unabatedly but the reasons for the same have changed considerably.
The Indian foreign policy in Middle East is no longer aimed at appeasing the Muslim population which was the case following the early years of Indian Independence and the same can be understood by growing polarization against Muslims and rise of Hindutva. If the Modi government really wanted to appease Indian Muslims by taking a pro-Palestine stand at UNGA then the BJP government would have also taken a strict action against the persons who have committed heinous crimes against Muslims in India.
What drives Indian foreign policy in Middle East
The Indian foreign policy for Middle East is primarily focused on countering the Pakistan’s influence in the region. Also, the relation of India with the Middle East is economically advantageous which is vital to its national interest. Modi’s key plan for executing foreign policy in Middle East is to come closer to the Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Qatar for which he has to ensure that he falls in line with the interests of these states. In order to strike a ‘power of balance’ in Middle East, India had sought membership in Organisation For Muslim Cooperation (OIC) but was even declined the status of Observer State due to the stiff opposition of Paksitan. What if India could not become a part of OIC but the state has been successful in its conduction of foreign policy goals in Middle East and same thing can be established by the fact that the Middle East States do not support India on Kashmir but at the same time they don’t always issue a statement against India on the Kashmir issue. Given the massive support for UNGA resolution on Jerusalem in favour of Palestine, India’s vote against the resolution would not have made any difference to the overall result but it would have surely impacted its foreign policy ambitions in the Middle East.
Israel’s strong advocacy for liberation of Kurdistan from Iraq comes in contrast to the wishes of United States that opposes the freedom of Kurdistan. On the other hand Iran and United States despite of being bitter enemies share the same strategy for the Kurdistan (Iraq) that is both states do not advocate for granting of separate state to the Kurds in Iraq.
A timeline of Indian Support for Palestine
1947: India opposed partition plan of Palestine.
1974: India becomes first Non Arab state to recognise Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)
1996: India opens representative office to the state of Palestine in Gaza
2011: India votes in favour of Palestine for its acceptance as a full member of UNESCO
2012: India co-sponsored resolution making Palestine a ‘Non-member state’ of UN general assembly.
2015: India backs Dandung Declaration on Palestine at Asian African commemorative conference.
2015: India supports Installation of Palestine flag at UN premises.
Tailpiece: Unlike the friendship between individuals which is driven by emotions, the friendship between states is always driven by interests. There have been many instances when a state stood on the side of its enemy and also a state opposed its strong ally. Israel’s strong advocacy for liberation of Kurdistan from Iraq comes in contrast to the wishes of United States that opposes the freedom of Kurdistan. On the other hand Iran and United States despite of being bitter enemies share the same strategy for the Kurdistan (Iraq) that is both states do not advocate for granting of separate state to the Kurds in Iraq.
(The author a student of International Relations at IUST Awantipora writes exclusively for the edit page of “Kashmir Horizon”. His views are personal)